Canaveral Port Authority Reverses Toll Increase Decision
By Ed Pierce // July 3, 2012
Move To Oust Port CEO Payne Fails
BREVARD COUNTY • PORT CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – Two important developments emerged from this morning’s special meeting of the Canaveral Port District Board of Commissioners.
The first development was a 5-0 vote by commissioners to rescind June 20’s action by the board to impose a toll of $50 per trip that private parking lot operators and hotel shuttles would be forced to pay to drop off or pick up passengers headed out of the port on cruises.
The toll for such services had been averaging about $5, but that was conditional for how many passengers were being taken to cruise ships.
“For more than a decade we’ve been dealing with the loss of parking revenues,” Port Canaveral CEO Stan Payne told the board. “Parking revenues amount to 20 percent for the port. Parking is clearly bleeding as a revenue source.
”To attempt to stem the bleeding, the port’s parking must become competitive,” he said.
Currently on-site parking at the port for cruise passengers is $15 per day, while some off-site businesses only charge one-third to one-half of that amount.
Payne apologized to the board and an overflow crowd in attendance for a controversial video released earlier this year that depicted off-site parking as highly inconvenient and potential targets of vandals and violent criminals.
Melissa Huey-Byron, the President/CEO of the Cocoa Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce told commissioners she wanted them to realize that imposing expensive tolls would hurt local businesses.
“We love the port,” she said. “We like to think everyone coming into our area is tourism-related.”
Dave Spain of the Comfort Inn & Suites Resort in Cocoa Beach said the excessive toll would discourage tourism and flies in the face of basic customer service.
“Customer service is everything in the hotel business,” Spain said. “The port thinks it’s a monopoly. Don’t ruin it by being so short-sighted.”
The idea behind increasing the toll was prompted after a consultant hired by the port, Michele Krakowski of Lumin Advisors in Indiana, advised Payne and the board that it’s losing substantial parking business to less expensive off-site parking businesses and steps needed to be taken immediately to prevent further loss of revenue.
In his remarks at the start of the meeting, Payne had told the board that port revenue was at a record $700,000 in May alone and now stands at more than $15 million for the current fiscal year.
Roger Dobson, the owner of the Days Inn of Cocoa Beach said he found Krakowski’s report to be ludicrous.
“I encourage you to take your time with this issue this time and get it right,” he told the board.
Tom Williamson, the president of the Cocoa Beach Hotel and Lodging Association, told commissioners that following the release of the controversial video a special committee had been set up to resolve issues between private businesses serving the port area and port staff over the issue of traffic and parking.
“The decision last week put a damper on anything we’ve been trying to do,” Williamson said. “Hopefully we can have positive discussions in the name of customer service.”
Joe Columbo, an attorney representing Cruise Parking of Port Canaveral, told the board that all of the fighting over parking is anti-productive.
“Cruise Parking of Port Canaveral is not going away,” he said. “There are businesses losses taking place here. We want to go back before there were no tolls which have created a lot of bad blood. We’re heading down a dangerous path here.”
Before the board could vote on a motion to rescind the new tolls, another development sprang up unexpectedly when Canaveral Port Authority Vice Chairman Tom Weinberg proposed an amendment to the motion that Payne’s contract be terminated immediately.
Weinberg cited a lengthy list of mistakes made under Payne’s leadership, including the releases of the off-site parking video and certain legal expenditures incurred by Payne regarding his contract.
He said Payne was “in the loop” about the controversial video and needed to accept responsibility for the fiasco.
Lack of confidence
Canaveral Port Authority Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Allender seconded Weinberg’s amendment, saying he lacked confidence in Payne’s leadership and lack of transparency.
“He’s very good at marketing and development. But the leadership is not there.” Canaveral Port Authority Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Allender talking about Canavarel Port Authority CEO Stan Payne.
“He’s very good at marketing and development,” Allender said. “But the leadership is not there.”
Commissioner Joe Matheny, a former chairman of the port authority board, said Weinberg’s amendment to dismiss Payne was totally uncalled for at a meeting to discuss parking.
“Over the years I’ve worked with a lot of Port CEOs and he’s the best we’ve ever had,” Matheny said.
The amendment to terminate Payne failed 3-2 with Matheny, Commissioner Frank Sullivan and Port Authority Chairman Bruce Deardoff voting no and Allender and Weinberg voting yes.
The motion to rescind the new tolls and set up a new committee of both port staff and private businesses to study the entire traffic and parking situation while not issuing any new permits for establishing off-site area parking sites then passed unanimously.
The measure also included a provision to begin a process to adopt changes to the port’s charter which might curb restrictions about how the port staff conducts business.
Any such changes to the charter would have to ultimately be approved by the state legislature in Tallahassee.
Following the meeting, Columbo said he was optimistic that the motion to rescind last week’s toll vote is a positive move.
“I think it’s encouraging, but we’re not going to rest until the tolls are completely rescinded,” Columbo said. “They have no basis for them and no authority to impose them.”
He said he’s wary though because every move that the port has taken in the last year has been meant to hurt and discourage his client’s business.
“I was encouraged to see several of the board members today make public their sentiment about the port CEO.” Attorney Joe Columbo talking about a move to terminate the contract of Canaveral Port Authority CEO Stan Payne.
“First there were the tolls, then the video and like others we also received a letter to cease and desist from using ‘Port’ or ‘Canaveral’ in our name from the port,” he said. “But this today was a step in the right direction and I was encouraged to see several of the board members today make public their sentiment about the port CEO.”
Weinberg said after the special meeting that it is regretful that it had to be held in the first place.
“I was happy to see that we are open to progress,” he said. “We’ll have to make better decisions as a board.”